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Farms and Food as Nature-based Visceral Experiences

Farms have long been recognized as sites of environmental and biodiversity conservation contention and threat. Indeed, growing unsustainable monocrop agricultural production is responsible for a large majority of global deforestation, GHG emissions, encroaching suburban and urban infrastructure development and agrochemical pollution. Yet, as people become more disconnected from their food sources and from the act of growing their own food, farms and food can serve as (tactile) spaces for (re)connection to life sources. Growing food and visiting farms can serve as immersive experiences that deepen environmental commitments (Carolan, 2007), and alternate ways of biochemically, physically and intellectually engaging. These sensual spaces can serve as facilitators of environmental knowledge and information sharing about biological, emotional and communal ways of learning from foodscapes.

At the same time, this type of connection is more holistically fostered in sustainable agricultural practices (as opposed to conventional production), where biodiversity, community and cultural inclusion are inherent components to the organization of the system. It is important to note that tourism, especially nature-based tourism, relies on the biodiversity and the terrestrial and coastal ecosystems that support diversified life and healthy environments (Becken and Hay, 2007). Therefore, the potential for moments of visceral alternate ways of knowing and connecting to the non-human world increases with sites that are actively regenerating and working with biological diversity. For example, this would include sites that are working to integrate sustainable agroforestry, ecoagriculture and polycrop organic production. As the human population grows and food security becomes increasingly threatened, local, diversified agriculture needs to become further understood as a source of sustenance, resilience and reconnection to place and self. In addition and co-supportively, as people (farm visitors/food consumers) have sensory inclusive experiences with biodiverse foodscapes and whole foods, enjoyment and a deeper level of understanding can support actions at personal and political levels to mitigate micro and macro GHG-producing actions. At the very least, enjoyable, nature-based farm and food experiences may encourage general environmental and climate change contemplation (Friese et al., 2011).

Farms are actual places and can be seen as pedagogical sites of learning. Friese et al. (2011, p. 175) explain that ‘places are fundamentally pedagogical because they are contexts for human perception and for participation with the phenomenal, ecological, and cultural world’. Therefore, a deeper examination of the role that farms can play to facilitate a narrowing of the gap between the nature-culture divide is of importance to this research. Specifically, farms may begin to play new roles in knowing of ‘self-others-environment’ (Gruenewald, 2003, p. 645) in this period of globalization and time-space compression.

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